By Don Southerton, Korea Expert Witness Editor and Chief Blogger
An interesting recent legal case in Korea is Minerva. The case centers on Freedom of Expression and the Web.
In 2008, Minerva’s sensational postings gained a massive following after accurately predicted the collapse of U.S. lending giant Lehman Brothers. Minerva followed up with a series of pieces criticizing the government’s economic policies, which spread quickly through across Korea’s web savvy society. Park Dae-sung, 30, better known by his Internet alias “Minerva,” was arrested in early January and was indicted on charges of spreading on-line rumors that the government ordered local banks not to buy U.S. dollars as part of efforts to stabilize the local currency.
A Seoul court on Monday acquitted the controversial on-line pundit accused of causing financial losses to the country by spreading misleading information.
The prosecution claimed the posting in December led to dollar hoarding, forcing the government to hurriedly inject $2 billion to stabilize the currency market. The prosecution had sought an 18-month prison term.
Yonhap news notes, “When considering all the circumstances, it is hard to conclude that Park was aware the information was misleading when he wrote the postings,” Justice Yoo Young-hyun of the Seoul Central District Court said in the ruling.
The judge also said that even if Park had realized that the information was false, it cannot be concluded that he had the intent to hurt public interest, considering the circumstances at the time or the special characteristics of the foreign exchange market.
Kim Gab-bae, Park’s legal representative, welcomed the ruling as truly meaningful, having been reached “based on evidence.”
“It did not misinterpret the law to infringe upon the people right to freedom of expression,” he said. It was not immediately known whether the prosecution planned to appeal.
The court rejected the prosecution’s argument directly linking the dollar hoarding as a consequence of Park’s posting and said the amount of damage incurred on the government cannot be quantified monetarily, even if the defendant was partly responsible for the depreciation of the won at that particular time.